An Illinois Republican candidate for Congress just picked up an historic endorsement: Estimable Harvard Law professor, Alan Dershowitz. Joel Pollak–who is challenging incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky in Illinois’ 9th district (where I happen to reside)–can now claim the remarkable distinction of receiving the self-described liberal Democrat icon’s first ever GOP nod. The venerable professor lavished praise upon his former law student at a crowded fundraiser last week. ChicagoMag.com offers a useful report on Wednesday’s event:
Before Pollak’s luncheon, Dershowitz told me that the candidate is the only Republican he has “ever come out and campaigned for.” He recalled teaching such future politicians as Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, and former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer during his 46 years at Harvard, but he said he has never “seen a more promising political leader than Joel,” who graduated from the law school last May. Dershowitz told the luncheon guests that if Pollak wins, he would immediately raise the IQ of Congress by several points…
Dershowitz seems thrilled at the prospect of Pollak debating Schakowsky, adding that Pollak once challenged him to a debate on the subject of Israel, and “the young punk wiped the floor with me.”
Aside from his intellectual sparring skills, Pollak’s strong stance on US-Israeli issues undoubtedly influenced Dershowitz’s decision. In an ironic twist, Schakowksy held a fundraiser of her own recently; it was headlined by none other than Helen ’Jews-Go-Home’ Thomas. Pollak pounced:
[Schakowsky] groaned when I mentioned that the best line of Pollak’s speech was, “I’m very proud to have Alan Dershowitz at my fundraiser; she had Helen Thomas at hers.”
“Bad timing,” Schakowsky calls it. Thomas, 89, was the “featured guest speaker” at the congresswoman’s 9th Annual Ultimate Women’s Power Lunch on April 20. Just weeks later, Thomas retired after making comments suggesting Israeli settlers should go home to Germany or Poland. Schakowsky recalled the pioneering newswoman as “absolutely delightful and not in the least bit controversial.”
In a sign that Schakowsky may be in some trouble with the district’s sizable Jewish voting bloc, the ostensibly “pro-Israel” lefty outfit, J-Street, poured $40,000 into the congresswoman’s coffers to counteract Pollak’s successful Dershowitz luncheon.
Few national observers have so much as hinted that Schakowsky may be vulnerable in November. Indeed, her re-elect numbers have been dauntingly strong and consistent over multiple cycles. Unshaken, Pollak is pressing ahead, as he told my radio audience last month. Stay tuned.